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Homeless outreach is vital
Re: Council grills Fraser Health over cut (NewsLeader, June 19)
The elimination of the program funded by Fraser Health Authority (FHA) since 2003 cuts community outreach services in New West by 50 per cent and results in the New Westminster Police becoming the primary call site when residents see a homeless person in need. Service is reduced to a single staff member four days a week, preventing outreach to homeless people who may be most challenged.
The majority of homeless people are mentally ill, cope with addictions, have compromised health and are marginalized. Their need is a warm bed, food, support and assistance to access a wide variety of services, including mental health and addiction services. Outreach workers are often the first contact to bridge people from a life of chaos to services and housing that bring them greater stability and out of homelessness.
The longer a person is on the streets, the longer it takes to develop a trusting relationship that enables this transition. The City of New Westminster has provided significant leadership in addressing local homelessness through fostering partnerships and services that demonstrate best practices.
Housing and homelessness are critical determinants of health most effectively addressed through an integrated response that involves every level of government, including health, as well as the public. For Fraser Health to back away from a proven, best-practice strategy that is cost effective is regressive.
Lookout continues to partner with FHA in supportive housing, for which we are grateful. But Fraser Health needs to return to being a funding partner in the battle to end homelessness.